Monday, February 21

Fall Girl - Toni Jordan

Ella Canfield is a slightly nervous evolutionary biologist. Part of her nervousness is because her project is fairly left of centre - she's seeking funds to research the possibility that there are Tasmanian tigers in Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria. The last known thylacine died in captivity in 1928, but there have been sightings ever since - Ella's proposal, made to the eccentric and well-funded Metcalf Trust, set up to support unusual scientific projects, is that thylacines may be a Lazarus species - thought extinct but still alive. She's seeking $25,000 to fund a three month project looking at scat, bone fragments and spoor. Though the Trust's administrator, Carmichael, seems sceptical, the person to convince is Daniel Metcalf, the heir of a fortune. Ella knows he's long had an interest in thylacines, and that's not her only unfair advantage.
Because Ella Canfield is fictitious - she's a creation of Della Gilmore, a third-generation con artist chasing the high of her first ever scam some twenty years earlier and desperate for a high-paying scam that will show her family she can do more than penny-ante short-cons. But Della didn't bank on Daniel being more than a superficial rich boy with more dollars than sense, and it might be Della who gets taken for a ride.
I so wanted to love Fall Girl - Jordan's debut novel Addition was excellent, and the topic of grifters (in fiction, at least) appeals to me. But I found virtually every aspect of Fall Girl irritating, from the set up to Della's family to the wholly unbelievable ending.
To take one example - Della's at lest third generation grifter, yet her cousin Timothy (who's somewhat jealous of Daniel) is more focused on his own agenda than this potentially very lucrative (for the whole family) con - his repeated interruptions while she's on the phone to Daniel in character are annoying, unprofessional and unbelievable.
Part were certainly appealing - I enjoyed the scenes setting up for Daniel's visit to Ella's university office, which reminded me of similar executions in Hustle, while other parts reminded me (sadly unfavourably) to the brilliant series Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the occasional line sparkled: "the dresser is white reclaimed timber that was once distressed but is now hysterical."
Overall, though, I was disappointed, but have high hopes for whatever Jordan writes next. - Alex

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